Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lexie's Surgery

Last November, while we were in Fort Pierce, I began noticing what felt like a pea under the skin on Lexie's abdomen. I kept an eye on it and by early February, I thought it might be growing and changing in color.

Our girl, Lexie

We telephoned a nearby veterinary office and took Lexie in for an exam. The vet who examined her was filling in for the regular doctor. She agreed the growth was suspicious and should be removed. Surgery was scheduled for the next Tuesday. We would bite our nails until then.

The following week, however, while sitting outside with Lexie and Ozzie in their playpen, a call came from the veterinary office telling me that Lexie's surgery would be moved back two more weeks because the vet had been stranded in a snowstorm during her visit to the northeast. I asked but they would not move Lexie into a surgery spot for the following week. No way. I had to act quickly and so I  began inquiring and making telephone calls to large veterinary clinics who might be able to get her into surgery sooner rather than later.

It took a half hour of calling, explaining and pleading before I reached the receptionist at VCA Miracle Mile Animal Hospital in Fort Myers. They would see her quickly. If it was agreed surgery was needed, it would be done promptly. There were five vets on staff and surgery was performed every day.  

The next day, all four of us went to VCA Miracle Mile. No dog goes alone to the vet from this household. There's safety in numbers and our two feel safest when they can be together in their stroller. Wayne and I comply with their wish whenever possible, of course. 

We met lovely young Dr. Janice Thomas, who carefully examined Lexie's abdomen and reached the obvious conclusion, the growth should be surgically removed.  We returned early the next morning, leaving Lexie for the procedure while Ozzie, Wayne and I count the minutes until we get the call to pick her up the same afternoon.  

To while away the hours, we visited the local pet supply store where Ozzie acted as Lexie's "stand-in" and tried on collars like one Lexie would be required to wear to protect her stitches from the itching she would have after the surgery. Because she would come home in an Elizabethan collar, we opted to get just the inflatable "donut" thinking we'd use whichever one seemed less problematic for her. 

The fashionable "lampshade" Elizabethan collar
In the end, Lexie alternated between the lampshade and the donut. Sleeping was more comfortable in the lampshade but the plastic base seemed to rub her neck so I changed it for the donut in daytime. It wasn't as bad as I had feared but I'm sure little Lexie would disagree.

The cozy but cumbersome, inflatable "donut" as presented by Ozzie standing on a stack of dog food bags.
We picked Lexie up mid-afternoon and saw the tumor Dr. Thomas had removed. The tiny growth was in a container of liquid and on it's way to the lab for testing.

Lexie's mammary tumor

Lexie was still groggy when she was brought to us in the examining room. We didn't get to visit with Dr. Thomas this time as she wouldn't have any test results. The tech explained that Lexie had done very well in surgery and should heal quickly. So afraid we would injure her, we were careful picking her up. The dreaded Elizabethan collar would have to be worn for ten days. Oh no.

Post op Lexie shows off her pink bandage from her IV.
Notice the tiny red heart the techs cut out for it. 
Recovery for Lexie during the next ten days was a bit of a problem. She couldn't walk easily in the Elizabethan (lamp shade) collar and it had to be removed when she walked on the leash. As she walks, Lexie sniffs things on the ground. When she does that, the bottom of the collar scraped the ground and scared her, causing her to jump. That wasn't a good thing.

Furthermore, we had instructions to keep Lexie from running, jumping or going up and down the little foam steps she uses to go to the couch. Additionally, from the couch, she always jumps onto the back of the couch to the window sill. All that was out of the question.

This means Lexie would spend her days in the little playpen.  She didn't mind being in the playpen when Ozzie was in with her, but she didn't like it all when she alone.

Looking down on the playpen.
Lexie in the lampshade and Ozzie wondering how he got into this predicament.

An unhappy Lexie barked constantly when she was in the pen alone
A few days after the surgery, Dr. Thomas called with the news that the tumor was malignant. Fortunately, she had removed a large swath of tissue, to include all of the mammary gland.  The lab report indicated that the far edges of the tissue showed no malignant cells so our chance of complete recovery was "cautiously optimistic"... 

Ten days after surgery, we returned to the clinic for Lexie's surgery follow up. The top layer of stitches were removed as was the dreadful lampshade collar. The inner stitches were healing well and would dissolve completely. We were so relieved. 

Dr. Janice Thomas with a very scared little Lexie
We learned a lot about mammary gland cancer in dogs during this process. Females who have had even one litter of puppies is at a much greater risk for mammary cancer than those who never had puppies.

At this writing, which is several months delayed, Lexie continues to do well though we keep a visual and probing check on her. 


  1. So happy that Lexie is progressing well!

  2. So glad to hear that Lexie is doing okay. Our pups never go to the vet alone either. All four of us always make the journey.